It’s hard to think of YouTube without Tyler Oakley springing to mind. With his mammoth following on the channel, he has become known as a pop culture phenomenon – and rightfully so! With more than 7 million YouTube subscribers and 500 million views, Tyler has earned his place in the social media universe and uses his influence to make people laugh, share his story, and advocate for social rights. When we heard that Tyler was hosting author events at our Ohio State and Indiana University bookstores, we crossed our fingers that he’d be willing to answer a few of our questions. As luck would have it, he was willing to do just that! From oversharing, to fangirling, to YouTubing, we touched on a few of the things Tyler is already most known for in addition to grilling him about his new book, Binge.
Q: According to YouTube, you created your profile in September of 2007… about 8 years ago! What did you have in mind when you joined the site and published your first video?
A: I initially started making YouTube videos to keep in touch with friends from high school when I went off to university. It was a great way for me to speak directly to them and tell them stories of what I’ve been up to.
Q: Looking back, is this what you hoped for when you uploaded that first video? Did you ever expect to get to where you are now?
A: Never would have expected this at all! It was never the goal, and it blows my mind that it’s happening now. I’m so appreciative and grateful for the continued support. To wake up every morning and do what I love? That’s the dream.
Q: Was there one point in your life that inspired you to share your stories and life with the world/YouTube?
A: I don’t think there was one exact moment as I initially started my channel to keep in touch with friends, but I think the moment I knew there was a genuine community out there and I had such an impact on everyone watching, I knew what I shared must have meant something and knew I had to use my platform in a positive way. For example, back in 2008, when I made my first video about the Trevor Project, I received a postcard from one of the founders saying thank you for the video and back then I had barely any subscribers. I didn’t have much of a reach at all, but seeing that was the encouragement that I needed to stay involved and to use my influence to be a part of the movement. Since then I’ve had that postcard on my shelf as a reminder to focus on what’s important.
Q: So, we know YouTube is your home and where you got your start, but can you pick another favorite social media platform?
A: I would have to say Twitter. I spend all day every day hanging out with my viewers on Twitter keeping them up to date with my life, and seeing what they’re up to. It really is a little family.
Q: What’s one of the hardest AND the best aspects of sharing so much of your life with the Internet?
A: A challenge about sharing so much of my life online is finding boundaries of what’s personal and what can be public. Thankfully, the majority of my viewers really respect the boundaries I set for my life, but it is a challenge, when everything seems sharable. The best aspect of sharing my life online is the chance to positively impact youth worldwide. I don’t take the responsibility lightly.
Q: Your videos are known for ‘oversharing’ about your life, but do you keep anything private? How do you pick and choose what you share in your videos and what you try to keep to yourself?
A: There are definitely some aspects of my life I do keep private, but for the most part stories of my life are shared across all of my social platforms, whether it’s on my channel or via Psychobabble. I always try to be my best self and just live my best life, and I talk about it on camera. I think people gravitate toward authenticity and that’s what I put forth in my videos. But when it comes down to it, so much of my life is and should be just for me – and not be performative. The first time I’m really pulling back the curtain of what it’s like to be me is in my new book, Binge!
Q: Tell us about the inspiration behind your upcoming book of essays, Binge, and what your writing process was like as you worked on it. Do you think you’ll want to write more after finishing this one?
A: I’ve been working on this thing for what feels like forever. It all started back in 2012 and every chance I got, while on tour, at home, between Psychobabble recordings, I was writing. Binge is a collection of stories I always wanted to tell, but wasn’t ready to until now. The stories I share in the book are the most intimate, personal experiences from my life so far – about friends, family, love, loss – they’re happy, sad, embarrassing, and hopefully sometimes hilarious. In Binge, I share the extremes – the absolute best and the painfully worst days of my life. I’ve never been this open, until now.
Q: What was the transition like of going from YouTuber and influencer to writer? How did you find time to do both?
A: It was actually not too much of a transition – I think YouTubers, at the end of the day, are storytellers. It just happens to be a different medium. It felt great to be able to find time to reflect on all that has gone on in my life and am so excited to be able to share yet another side of me to my fans and all who support me. I made sure to write something down every day, whether it was a few sentences or a few paragraphs – my phone and laptop are littered with notes and ideas.
Q: Fangirling is totally your thing. Can you pick one favorite celebrity that you’ve collaborated with/met/interviewed?
A: I’ve had the opportunity to meet some incredible people, but if I can only choose one, I would have to say Ellen DeGeneres. She’s always been someone I’ve looked up to and whose career I admire. When I finally got to meet her, she was so kind, present, fun, and warm. And! My mom was in the audience. Dream come true!
Q: At Barnes & Noble College, we’re focused primarily on college students. Do you have any advice for students or young people who are trying to navigate their way into adulthood? Any wisdom for someone pursuing their dreams?
A: Mess up. That’s what Binge is all about – the times I’ve lived life to the fullest, for better or for worse, and what I’ve learned along the way. When you binge on life, you figure it all out at your own pace. Hopefully my book can give people a glimpse into my world of growing up, not doing it quite the right way, but somehow coming out the other side still breathing.
Love Tyler’s insights as much as we do? Share the love with us on Twitter & Instagram or in the comments below! Don’t forget to pick up a copy of Tyler’s book, Binge – order your copy here.
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